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Wirral Council: It would be very risky not to give Wirral CEO Graham Burgess a permanent contract

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Mr Burgess is paid at the top of the Chief Executive salary range of £121,807 – £135, 341 per annum.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50009256/Chief%20Executive%20fv2.pdf

….so goes the blurb from Chris Hyams, Head of HR, who is subservient to the man at the top.  Er… not sure an underling can recommend anything else, assuming they want to ‘get on in life’?  From whom does Ms Hyams take her orders?

I noticed that there is a link to an Equality Impact Assessment in the above .pdf file.  But the link doesn’t do what it says on the tin.  Although it mentions ‘the EIA attached to this report’, all it does is take concerned members of the public to generic information about EIAs.

So what’s going on?  Where is the actual EIA backing up the decision to make Mr Burgess permanent?

This morning I rang somebody at the Council in the appropriate department, who acknowledged it didn’t look right and she would look into it, and put it right.

She also said it wasn’t possible to ‘unpublish’ documents once they are up there.  I said, “I don’t want it unpublishing – I think it needs correcting and the correct link putting up there.  At the moment it’s misleading…”

She will get back to me…  sorry, no she won’t.  The Wirral Council brand of public service only extends to doing what’s been asked (maybe) then leaving it at that.

The concern behind all this is, “Why does permanently cementing in place a senior public servant have equalities implications?” – which was a point that couldn’t be addressed by the council person I spoke to.

It’s very similar to this situation, where the council attempted to treat 66 councillors as some sort of ‘protected group’ – but later had to remove the EIA from the website – although the offending piece of paperwork still strangely survives here.  Why?

I think we need to be on our toes once again.  More to follow soon….

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#FoI Request: Consultant Anna Klonowski. Declarations. Costs. Nature of association

Have just published this post which asks questions about the true independence of the Wirral Council / Anna Klonowski Report. There is a lot more to add…

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Wirral In It Together

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http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/consultant_anna_klonowski_declar

The above FoI request was placed in May 2012.  Last spring.  Wirral Council acknowledged receipt 7 months later in December.  This winter.  So it’s the customary, not exactly timely response.

It’s pretty much the kind of thing we’ve come to expect when approaching Wirral Council in good faith for public information ~ a  towering and pretty impregnable brick wall of inertia.

You might gain the impression they frankly don’t give…

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Fine words – but where Wirral Council’s concerned, they’re always a hostage to fortune

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Here’s a link to a fine Wirral Council document.  ‘Fine’ because its stuffed with nice sounding, positive words – strong, decisive ones.  Only later – much later – to be revealed as shitty, deceitful and hollow.  The abusive council which promised so much… but delivered nothing.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=18972

It’s the process of bogus, pained self-flagellation / feigned victimhood that workplace bullies lurch towards when caught in the act.  Like rabbits in the headlights, they’re briefly stunned; but not missing a beat, they quickly recover.  Soon they’re up and running again, promising not to be so awful to their staff again in the future.  Their staff – the people they’ve described so many times in the past as ‘our most important asset’.

“Never again”, they will say. “This time….  it’s for real.”

But because they have all the power, they’ll quickly remind you that they’re the ones who are best placed to sort it all out.  They’ll start by making an earnest pledge to the watching public.

“We will stop at nothing in pursuit of the truth.  Lessons will be learned.  We will make the people responsible for this atrocious conduct (i.e. we the councillors / senior officers and our on-message sycophants) fully accountable…. and we are determined to succeed.  We are committed to fixing this organisation, and  moving forward.  We will start by calling for an immediate and robust review of all the relevant policies and procedures.”

This will be their call to ‘action’.  They may even call the whole thing an “Action Plan“.  Because that sounds positive.  Unless like Wirral, you happen to be on Action Plan number 94 for whatever year, with the list of self-generating scandals and fiascos growing ever longer:

  • (to be continued…..)

The experienced council watchers among you are now seeing phrases trotted out such as ‘we need to draw a line under it’ or ‘this council has to move forward’ or ‘that’s historical and happened such a long time ago’.

Here’s a reminder of Councillor Denise Roberts’ amendment from way back when – otherwise known as ‘the ‘series of unfortunate events defence’ – stuffed to the gills with the corrosive language of avoidance – which despite or because of LGA involvement, still epitomises to this day Wirral Council’s inability to take onboard and recognise its own desperate failings.

As the desire to cover up gathers fresh momentum, a public inquiry and / or special measures are desperately needed – to stem the haemorrhaging of £millions more of our money into the burgeoning black hole of Wirral councillors’ and senior officers’ creation.

Now…!

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Wirral Council’s external ‘independent’ investigator Richard Penn. Whose side is he on?

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Make up your own mind here.

The links below are by no means exhaustive and represent a quick selection taken from the net in a short time.

Much more compelling stuff on Richard Penn’s increasingly questionable contribution is here

A good starting point is this link:

Richard Penn unsuccessfully represents Sharon Shoesmith in Baby ‘P’ Case, May 2011 – http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/shoesmith-v-ofsted-others-judgment-270511.pdf

Please Google “INJUNCTION SOUGHT IN BRADMET SAGA” to access the following article:

October 1996 ~ http://www.lgcplus.com/lgc-news/injunction-sought-in-bradmet-saga/1521025.article

December 1998 ~ http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/archive/1998/12/15/Bradford+District+Archive/8070272.Stressed_City_Hall_chief_to_quit_early/

Please Google “Penn to help Chief Executives” to access the following article:

January 1999 ~ http://m.lgcplus.com/1438634.article

December 2005 ~ http://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/news/local/penn-report-should-be-made-public-mp-1-1366476

January 2006 ~ http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=9737

December 2006 ~ http://www.rottencouncil.co.uk/news/2006/december.htm

October 2009 ~ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/baby-p/6309119/Baby-P-Sharon-Shoesmith-in-pension-package-talks-before-suspension-court-told.html

May 2011 ~ http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=16377

December 2011 ~ http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-16285217

October 2012 ~ http://www.wirralnews.co.uk/wirral-news/local-wirral-news/2012/10/17/wirral-council-150-000-pay-off-for-director-of-law-bill-norman-80491-32052148

http://johnbrace.com/tag/richard-penn/

http://www.1in12.com/publications/archive/stories99/rpenn.html

http://www.zoominfo.com/#!search/profile/person?personId=134460541&targetid=profile

http://m.123people.co.uk/s/richard+penn#

http://wales.gov.uk/irpwsub/home/members/?lang=en

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10133070.EXCLUSIVE__MP_Field_to_take_Wirral_Council_highways_row_to_Parliament/

The above links are by no means exhaustive and represent a quick selection taken from the net in a short time.

Much more on Richard Penn’s increasingly questionable contribution is here

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Was Anna Klonowski’s investigation truly independent? Wirral Council still to reply – 9 months on

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http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/consultant_anna_klonowski_declar

The above FoI request was placed in May 2012.  Last spring.  Wirral Council acknowledged receipt 7 months later in December.  This winter.  So it’s the customary, not exactly timely response.

It’s pretty much the kind of thing we’ve come to expect when approaching Wirral Council in good faith for public information ~ a  towering and pretty impregnable brick wall of inertia.

You might gain the impression they frankly don’t give a damn.

Link to news that Wirral will be the only council in the land, monitored by the Information Commissioner – starting in January 2013

But at least while they sit in silence, and in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, and we continue to wait for something to happen, we have an opportunity to discuss the issues brought up in this request, one by one.

  • AKA Associates, headed by local government consultant Anna
    Klonowski has a track record of working with Wirral Council, in the
    areas of training of senior officers and councillors, consultation
    on governance, and “independent” investigation. According to press
    reports, and the council website, it appears AKA’s associations
    with the Council as an “independent” consultant are ongoing and
    developing further

That’s right.  This ‘independent’ external investigator had a prior association with Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, which began five years before AKA were appointed to externally investigate, back in 2006.  It took the form of ‘governance training’ provided to senior officers and councillors.

Despite several written requests – here is a selection from Twitter – I’ve never been provided with any information to allay public concern over the true impartiality or ‘independence’ of the Klonowski inquiry.  The people involved are all public servants, working for you and me, but there are serious, compelling and ongoing questions, raised in the interests of openness, transparency, fairness and democracy, but yet to be answered:

  1. Why was AKA chosen ahead of other qualified individuals and organisations – many without a prior association?
  2. What exactly were the company’s credentials for taking on such a complex and wide-ranging inquiry?
  3. Did Councillor Green’s choice fully comply with the Council’s policy and procedure for the commissioning of external investigations?
  4. With being a former trainer, did AKA stand to gain or lose in any way by the decisions / findings / recommendations reached?
  5. Why did AKA fail to investigate Balls Road Supported Living in the same way West Wirral was looked at? (The AKA “not enough time” excuse was inadequate and may have breached the remit)
  6. Why did AKA stubbornly refuse to minute or dual-tape-record their investigations with participants of the external review despite many requests?  The chance to record a completely accurate version of events was quickly lost forever

Why do these questions need to be answered?  Because AKA do not appear to have declared any prior interest or affiliation when the then leader Jeff Green commissioned them to carry out a review which eventually cost the local taxpayer £250,000.

Also, having a prior connection, that of providing governance training to councillors and senior officers, Anna Klonowski Associates seems to have stood to gain (or lose), dependent on the eventual outcome.  It’s not in the interests of the wider public, to entrust an organisation whose fortunes clearly rode on the outcome they themselves would reach.  In fact, it seems to have been a forseeable and avoidable conflict of interest which could have interfered with the nature of the conclusions eventually arrived at.

AKA found that all 66 councillors were completely blameless – which many existing staff, former staff, and members of the public understandably found astonishing.  The problem for AKA was: if they’d found a number of councillors culpable, it may have interfered with future funding decisions, and put an end to their association with the council; an association that AKA had spent  many years building and nurturing.  With ‘playing safe’, and clearing the decision makers, there was no direct obstacle to AKA continuing to provide their ongoing consultancy services.

I’m not saying this is what actually transpired, and that these were the reasons for the decisions made – but we can’t rule anything out or in – because there has been either silence or a dearth of information.  And to the sceptical, hard-bitten Wirral Council watcher, there was always the potential for ‘shenanigans’ to occur.  And given the council’s proven historical abuse of power, this would not look out of place.

The public can’t be blamed for harbouring serious misgivings – doubts which have never been safely put to bed.

(More to follow…..)

I wonder what’s happening with this?  I haven’t heard a thing

— Wirral In It 2gether (@Wirral_In_It) January 13, 2013

My unanswered tweets – a collection which grows by the day

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Occasionally I send a short message on Twitter to people who, being public servants, should be able to provide me with answers.  Very occasionally I do get answers, but not the answers I’m seeking:

https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/255596331232546816

https://twitter.com/andyburnhammp/status/251318761381036032

But most of the time, it’s a wall of silence.

These hit the wall…..

https://twitter.com/eVirtual_Assist/status/274476954986622977

https://twitter.com/eVirtual_Assist/status/274665256649912320

https://twitter.com/eVirtual_Assist/status/273500952860962816

https://twitter.com/eVirtual_Assist/status/273024070554107904

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Yet another ‘Action Plan’ – dealing with the fallout from the HESPE fiasco… or not…?

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On 18th October 2012, Wirral Council issued an ‘Action Plan‘ – which sounds good… on the face of it; a determination to roll up their sleeves, get stuck in, bang a few heads together, stand for no nonsense and consign all the proven abuse and failings to the past, where they belong.

However, seasoned watchers of this organisation will be aware that they’ve issued a torrent of ‘Action Plans’ down the years, generally in response to the latest fiasco or PR disaster; the stated purpose usually being to get to grips with the bungling and prevent the organisation from being hauled through the courts as a result.  But the ‘Action Plan’ method doesn’t appear to have effected much change.  It appears to be a case of  ‘onwards and downwards’.  Here’s an Audit and Risk Management Meeting called on 26th November to discuss this latest one:

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50007881/HES%20Action%20Plan%20Report%2018102012%20Cabinet.pdf

Given the serious and repeated lapses in corporate governance, the reluctance to deal correctly with abusers, the tendency to reach for the public cheque book and pay senior people off, to gag them within compromise agreements rather than discipline them, and the general failure to get to grips with making senior officers and councillors truly accountable, the requirement for these ‘Action Plans’ turns up on a very regular basis…. and will keep doing so.  True accountability and the removal of the ever-present rogues would stamp it all out.

The introduction to this one follows the same tired old pattern of using carefully selected keywords in an attempt to take the heat out, and to avoid addressing the issue head on and rattling more alarm bells.  It simply would not do to deploy the same harsh language that was cruelly churned out by an angry local and regional press when a group of public-spirited whistleblowers, who’d been ignored by the council, alerted the district auditor (whose middle name was inertia) to a council contract, riddled to its very core with impropriety and serious failings.

No, where the HESPE (Highway and Engineering Services Procurement Exercise) Contract is concerned….

….it’s reputation management time.

‘Issues and concerns’ was the oh so bland, key phrase settled on this time, and rolled out twice here.

The rather feeble “Issues and concerns that need to be addressed” and “findings and recommendations… to be considered” are the rousing rallying calls to councillors.  So, until the next ‘Action Plan’ comes along, let’s roll our sleeves up, get stuck in and sign it off.  Then pass it on to the next committee, who will be absolutely resolute, totally fearless in their roles and sign it off and pass it on to the…..

…you get the idea.

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